Angel Singer had a notion that last season’s success would impact the Desert Vista girls tennis program, but even the Thunder’s head coach underestimated just how much.
The Thunder made it to the state semifinals for the first time a year ago and it led to a big jump in numbers, including 11 freshmen and a few athletes from other sports giving tennis a try.
“I think it is a direct result of what we accomplished last year,” Singer said. “We lost a lot of our players, but this new group has really surprised me and given us a lot more depth than we’ve had in a long time. They heard how good we were, but also how much fun we had.”
While the numbers have increased so have the expectations and the Thunder just might be up to the task.
Entering Tuesday’s match against Salpointe Catholic, Desert Vista had won five straight matches, including a forfeit by Page, to give the team some confidence in trying to match last year’s semifinal appearance.
The Thunder’s only defeat before facing Salpointe was a 5-4 loss at Corona del Sol to start the season. With a lineup that features two freshmen and a sophomore, there might have been a bit of first match jitters.
“We probably didn’t play our best and we will be ready when we play them again (on April 5),” senior Jennifer Kahn said. “We can get better as some of our younger players get more experience. We can definitely do what we did last year.”
Singer said so from the beginning, and the first few weeks of the season haven’t deterred those thoughts.
“We are getting there,” she said during Thursday’s win over Mountain Pointe. “The talent is there and so is the competition. Other than our No. 1 everyone else is pretty interchangeable so we don’t have much of a drop off like we have in the past.”
The No. 1 singles is freshman Melissa Kahn, a tournament player, and she has embraced the role. Singer even said that Kahn stopped going to her personal coach during the high school season.
“It shows how much she cares about her teammates and that she wants to be part of this team,” Singer said. “We told her she might not have asked for the role of team leader, but that’s too bad because she is already showing signs of it.”
Kahn is followed by No. 2 Carolyn Rath, a senior, with the older Kahn at No. 3. Sophomore Tori Kammerzell is No. 4 while junior Courtney Floegel and freshman Yolena Carlon round out the rest of the usual lineup.
“It’s a good mix and they really feed off each other,” Singer said. “We’ll see where it leads us.”
If it is anything like last year, the Thunder will make a run at a top four seed, but to do so they have to beat teams like Salpointe, Corona, Pinnacle and Chaparral.
“There are some good teams on the schedule,” Singer said. “We are still finding our way a little bit, but by the end of the year we should be ready to play anyone.”
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